REL is purring after the win over Neath and anticipating following the progress of Luke Leddington and Harrison Keddie as they follow in the footsteps of Gavin Henson, Mike Phillips, Adam Jones and someone called Damien Hudd!

Ebbw skills camp a “great success”
Ebbw Vale’s under 11s skills camp, on Saturday morning, organised by fitness coach Lewis Roberts in his development officer role, was a great success. Head Coach Jason Strange said, “We had loads of youngsters there, enjoying the opportunity to train with the club’s coaches and meet first team players.”
There’ll be an 11-16 skills camp announced in the very near future, aimed at junior players across North Gwent.
Many thanks are due to Remo Basini of Luis Fish Bar for supplying refreshments.

Ebbw 36 Neath 17
Ebbw played some of their best rugby of the season so far in this rousing defeat of the Welsh All Blacks. After a week of snow and frost, the milder air of Friday and the magnificent efforts of the ground staff meant that the sides were treated to an excellent surface - a little soft on top but perfect for running rugby.

Ebbw kicked off towards the clubhouse, 15 minutes late as Mr Williams, the referee, had been caught up in traffic following accidents on the M4. After a brief episode of aerial ping-pong, Neath set up an excellent driving maul that took them into the Ebbw half and wing Alec Jenkins sped over to give his side the lead. Rhodri Cole converted. Ebbw hit back quickly, with Wes Cunliffe steaming through midfield, leaving would-be tacklers flailing. Although he was eventually stopped on the 22, his fellow backs moved the ball quickly left and Dan Haymond finished for the 5 points. 

If the backs took the praise for Haymond’s try, it was the forwards who earned the second with a patient, well-marshalled Catch’n’Kynes, converted by Iain Smerdon, to make it 12-7. 

Neath had been just about matching Ebbw in the scrums, but the Steelmen took firm control once ex-Ebbw tighthead Marc Jones limped off. It was scrum pressure that won Ebbw their third try just before half time when Neath buckled, Ebbw’s back row swooped and Owen WIlliams raced home. Smerdon converted superbly from wide out to make the score 19-7 at half time.

Neath were first on the board after the break when Rhodri Cole put over a penalty, and they kept the game in Vale territory, but another episode of scrummaging disruption set Carl Meyer off on a superb break that saw him burst tackles and power into Neath’s 22. When he was hauled down short, Neath infringed to kill the momentum (and might well have seen yellow another day) but Rhys Downes quickly tapped and went, feeding on to Wes Cunliffe who scored his team’s fourth, securing the bonus point. 

As the game went on, Neath tried to pick themselves up and they put together some excellent passages of play; they certainly didn’t look like a team struggling at the wrong end of the table. After a series of rucks, with the forwards picking and driving, flanker Alun Jones scored their second try. Dafydd Howells converted and the visitors were on to a losing bonus and within a converted try of levelling the tie. 

Ebbw were in no mood to cede supremacy though, and injected deadly pace into their game. Replacement tighthead Rob Sevenoaks forced his way over for a score to take it to 29-17, then came the try of the match as Carl Meyer made another scintillating break followng great work by Spencer Gibson, to free Wes Cunliffe who raced in and touched down between the posts. Debutant Dai Langdon converted and the Steelmen went back to the top of the table, with a 5-point, 36-17 win and the double over Neath.

Ebbw’s team was: Dan Haymond, Wes Cunliffe, Nathan Preece, Carl Meyer, Owen Williams; Iain Smerdon, Rhys Downes; John Lavender, Rhys Francis, Gethin Robinson; Damien Hudd (capt), Ashley Sweet; Cameron Regan, Ronny Kynes, Harrison Keddie. Replacements: Ross Jones, Mathew Williams, Rob Sevenoaks, Rhys Clarke, Spencer Gibson, Chris Thomas, David Langdon, Adam Jones.

Scorers
Ebbw - Tries: Dan Haymond, Ronny Kynes, Owen Williams, Wes Cunliffe (2),
                      Rob Sevenoaks
            Cons: Iain Smerdon (2), Dai Langdon

Neath - Tries: Alec Jenkins, Alun Jones
             Cons: Rhodri Cole, Dafydd Howells
             Pen: Rhodri Cole

Man of the Match: Rhys Francis

Harri and Luke in Wales U20s squad
Steelmen number 8 Harrison Keddie and prop Luke Leddington have been named in the Wales U20s squad for the forthcoming Six Nations championship. Congratulations to Luke and Harri from all at EVRFC!

Rhys Downes is Principality Player of the Month

Congratulations to scrum haf Rhys Downes who has won the Principality Premiership ‘Player of the Month’ award for December. 

Rhys, who works as a support worker at a residential home for young people in Ebbw Vale, said, "We're really pleased with how we've done so far this season. The side was a very tight knit unit before I joined and they have kept that spirit alive. They'd worked their way through the leagues together and being promoted to the Principality Premiership means so much to everyone at the club that they feel they have a point to prove every time they go out and play. It's not just about staying in the Premiership but challenging for the top spot."

Downes paid tribute to the work of the forwards at Ebbw Vale. "The forwards make such a difference, the set-piece provides a great platform, it's been great playing with Iain Smerdon at half-back and we have some exciting backs to do some damage too. We are quite a complete side and that is down to the coaches who are second to none. The environment and the work that goes on behind the scenes is as good, if not better than anything I've experienced before, Jason (Strange) and Duane (Goodfield) have done brilliantly.

After being part of a full-time rugby set-up within the Blues academy, Downes has adapted well to his latest challenge. "I certainly appreciate everything more after having to go out and work. Regular rugby has helped too and I would love to have another shot at professional rugby,” he said.

Jason Strange believes Downes is capable of doing just that. "Rhys has been a key lynchpin in our team this season, one of the first names on the teamsheet and deserves this recognition. He consistently produces high performance levels which is what is expected by coaches at regional level so I certainly think he has what it takes to step up."

Joanne Silcox, Principality Building Society's Ebbw Vale branch manager, said, "Ebbw Vale have shown some fantastic form since getting promoted into the Principality Premiership this season and Rhys has certainly bolstered their efforts. He has put in some brilliant performances and we hope this continues for the rest of the season.”

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